Jumping onto a different platform
Until now, Larry Mullen jnr has been perfectly happily on his rig, off in the distance of a 360-degree Willie Williams-designed platform. On tour, he rarely ventures forward except obscured by a djembe or bongos. He lives, as a drummer might, quietly and almost invisibly with Ann, his partner of some 30 years, and their three children, Aaron, Ava and Ezra.
“I’m absolutely rubbish at being a rock star,” he admits. “I’m one of the worst rock stars I know. I love being at home with my kids. There are no drugs. There’s not even a whole lot of rock’n’roll going on. I love going on the road for a short period of time. But I’m just not a rock’n’roll animal.” He’s happy down the back. He doesn’t crave any additional attention. “You know the term ‘Splash me, I’m here too’? I don’t need it that bad,” he insists.
He is, accordingly, probably the last member of U2 one expects to find in a movie. How on earth has he ended up in the title role of director Mary McGuckian’s Man on the Train, anyway?
“It was a bit of shock,” says Mullen, who had initially signed up for a bit part. “I had talked to Mary after working on the Electrical Storm video with Samantha Morton. I thought I’d like to try a cameo role or producing a film. That was actually something Bono said to me. He said, ‘If you’re going to do a movie, no matter how big or how small, get involved with the production. Then if you’re really crap you have some chance of covering your ass.’”
As it happened, McGuckian, who has previously directed Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh and an entire constellation of heavyweight thespians, had grander plans for the budding actor.
“We were a couple a weeks in when she told me I was the man on the train,” recalls Mullen. “So I turned up and my first day was performing with Donald Sutherland. I’m supposed to be teaching him how to shoot in the scene. And I’ve got my arms around trying to stop myself from thinking, ‘This is the guy that did Klute and Don’t Look Now.’ That was jumping in the deep end.”
McGuckian’s remake of Patrice Leconte’s 2002 drama L’Homme du Train, features an unlikely week-long bromance between a retired poetry lecturer (Sutherland) and an enigmatic drifter (Mullen, in a role once occupied by French pop legend Johnny Hallyday). Both men are counting down the days until the following Saturday when one faces surgery and the other is planning to rob a bank.
It can’t have been easy trying to maintain a cool, Zen facade across from one of the most expressive faces in the movieverse, surely?
“No it wasn’t,” says Mullen. “Donald actually talks about his face and what he can do with it. I think it says a lot about him that he was prepared to do a movie with me. He’d take me aside and tell me to speed up sometimes. Or he’d lean in like your dad might and have a word. It can’t have been easy for him. It must have been like working with a bassist when they only know two notes.”
Mullen is characteristically self-effacing about his breakthrough role, though he’s thrilled to have the film – replete with his contributions to the score – finally in the can.
“This is one of the scariest things I’ve done artistically,” he says. “When I looked at the rushes I thought ‘well, it’s a little embarrassing in places but I’ve seen it through and I didn’t do that badly. It’s not embarrassing all the time.’ And if that’s all that they say I’ll be happy.”